“No idea of time”: Parents report differences in autistic children’s behaviour relating to time in a mixed methods study

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An emerging body of research suggests that temporal processing may be disrupted in autistic children, although little is known about behaviours relating to time in daily life. In the present study, 113 parents of autistic and 201 parents of neurotypical children (aged 7-12) completed the It’s About Time questionnaire (Barkley, 1997) and open-ended questions about their child’s behaviour relating to time. Questionnaire scores were lower in the autistic compared to the neurotypical group, suggesting behaviours are affected. Three key themes were identified using thematic analysis: Autistic children had problems with temporal knowledge, learning about concepts relating to time, such as how to use the clock and language around time. There were differences in prospection with autistic children having more difficulties with how they thought about the future and prepared themselves for upcoming events. The final theme, monotropism described how autistic children viewed their time as precious so they could maximise engagement in their interests. The present study indicates that behaviours relating to time can have a considerable impact on the daily lives of autistic children and their families. Further work exploring the development of temporal cognition in autism would be valuable for targeting effective educational and clinical support.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Feb 2021

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